Big stink about new wasabi fire alarm

30th Sep 2011
Written by: James Roberts

Big stink about new fire wasabi alarm

There are always things to worry about on your gap year, but thanks to one Japanese company, deaf backpackers no longer have to worry about fire alarms.

The company, based in Shiga, have come up with an innovative fire alarm for deaf people that works by emitting a strong smell of wasabi. The alarm will release a stream of wasabi extract into the room upon the detection of smoke, waking all from sleep.

Wasabi, also known as Japanese horseradish, is more associated with sushi bars as opposed to fire alarms, but Shiga University of Medical Science have conducted research showing that deaf people exposed to the odour of wasabi woke up within two-and-a-half minutes.

Chigusa Shimokawa of Seems, a Tokyo based company that is distributing the Wasabi Odour fire alarm, said: “We tested many different scents, but we found that the chemical components of wasabi make it difficult for people not to wake up when it is released.

“We tried peppermint, lavender and many others, but none of them worked like wasabi being sprayed into a room.”

The company is aiming to sell the Wasabi Odour fire alarm to residential homes and a number of hotels with hard-of-hearings guests, but the opportunities are endless. The alarm has the potential to go anywhere, such as in busy nightclubs and bars where noise levels could drown out a conventional fire alarm.

Backpacking hostels will no doubt consider installing the Wasabi Odour fire alarm, especially as the invention was awarded the Ig Nobel prize for chemistry in the early hours of this morning. The Ig Nobels are a parody of the Nobel prizes which aim to “first make people laugh, and then make them think.” Other winners this year included studies into whether yawning is contagious in red-footed tortoises, whether the strong urge to urinate effects the decision making process and the discovery that certain kinds of beetles will try to mate with certain kinds of Australian beer bottles.

An Ig Nobel is perhaps not as prestigious as a real Nobel but the award shows that the Wasabi Odour fire alarm could really change people’s perceptions of fire alarms and save people’s lives. And why stop there? Why not release the wasabi alarm clock or the wasabi door bell (for indoors, not outdoors)? Or even better, have wake up calls with wasabalarms: “Hi there. I’d like to check in please. Oh, and can you wasabi me at 5am?”

How do you think you’d react to being woken up by a wasabi alarm clock? In fact, what’s the weirdest way you’ve been woken up on your gap year? Comments below.

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